How to Choose the Right Answering Service


There are a lot of live support providers out there. Here are some things to look for so you know how to choose the right answering service for your company.

When you decide to look into partnering with an answering service you probably don’t just hire the first one you come across. It’s best to shop around and find the one that best fits your needs and budget. But after you’ve researched some companies and spoken with sales reps from several different providers you will surely have a lot of information on your plate. Here are some things to look for and questions to ask to help you sift through all your options and choose the right answering service.

When do I need my answering service to handle calls?

Determine when you’ll be needing service (after hours, weekend, holidays, sporadically throughout the day, 24/7) and make sure the answering service you are considering will not only have coverage, but good staffing levels during those times.

Do I want calls screened?

If your live support provider is acting as your virtual receptionist that answers the phone and connects calls to the right person in your organization, you’d better make sure they can screen those calls. You only want to be interrupted with a call if it’s important, so check into their ability to follow your very specific requirements.

How do you want your messages delivered?

Make sure your answering service of choice will send you your messages via your preferred method. Want your messages texted to your on-call person and emailed to you? Prefer to call in to the service and get your messages? Are you more of a fax kind of person? Or would you like to just login to a secure online portal to view your messages and manage your account? A good answering service will have a bevy of message delivery options available to you.

What do you want your script to look like?

Getting your answering service script dialed in is absolutely crucial to the success of a live support program. Your provider should work closely with you to construct a completely customized script that is unique to your business and the needs of your callers. If you encounter an answering service that’s just going to stick you with a generic template script then just move on in a hurry.

Do you want your callers placed on hold?

Absolutely not! Ask prospective services how they handle holds. Make sure they are a one call environment that focuses on each caller and never puts them on hold.

Is HIPAA compliance important to you?

If you work in the medical field then it sure is! Ask prospective call center partners about their process and procedures for ensuring HIPAA compliance so you know you’re getting a company that is going to protect you and your patients.

Do you need appointment scheduling or order taking?

The right answering service is going to be able to provide more services than just taking a message. If you need them to schedule/update/cancel appointments for your callers, then they should use a shared scheduling calendar with you. If you are selling a product and want your call center to collect order information, then they should provide that inbound call service. Whatever you can do over the phone for your callers your answering service should be able to do too. Don’t accept limitations that are going to keep you from getting the most out this partnership.

What’s the best way for an answering service to charge you?

In most cases you’re going to want to be billed by the minute on a monthly basis with a month-to-month contract. There won’t be any hidden fees and you won’t get nickeled and dimed. Beware of getting charged by the call, 28-day billing cycles, call patching fees, and long term contracts.

So these are some of the questions you should ask when evaluating answering service choices. Once you start asking yourself these questions it will get your mind on track to ask more of the right questions. And that’s really the key here: ASK QUESTIONS. Ask yourself so you can identify your goals. And then ask potential answering services so you can evaluate their responses. Once you’ve shopped around, found a provider that wants to work with you to take care of all your needs, and offers fair pricing that fits your budget then you’ve found the right one.

Follow these steps, ask lots of questions, and you’ll know exactly how to choose the right answering service.

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